*** update: If you are interested in doing this Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm has given me a coupon to pass on to you. Use the code BoneTree to get 10% off of your purchase!
This project has ended up being one of the easiest that I have done so far and the results are amazing. I knew very little about vermicomposting until I started researching it online and once I did I was even more sold.
Here is the deal…vermicomposting is a way to get worm casting (worm poop) to use in your garden beds. It can also be used in compost tea.
- Save your everyday food scraps. Animal products such as meat and dairy are not good for worm bins!
- Throw them into the worm bin, and the worms do all the work and create a super nutrient rich organic compost to add to your soil.
How do you get started you ask?
- Do a little research. This article is one. And there are tons of websites online . Also a great (inexpensive) book to check out is Worms Eat My Garbage: How to set up and maintain a worm composting system.
- Decide what kind of worm bin you would like. You can buy them on Amazon but they are a little pricey. They run from about $60-$100+. Or better yet, you can make your own and you probably even have most of the materials at home to do it!
- Make the bin. If you are making your own (which I recommend) you will need 2 plastic Rubbermaid totes (1 needs to have a lid and they can’t be clear). You will also need newspaper. See, it really isn’t a big deal. Here comes the hardest part- you will need to drill 6-8 small (1/4-1/2 inch) holes in the bottom of one of the totes and several holes (1/4-1/2 inch) around the top edge of the same tote. While you have the drill out go ahead and drill a set of holes in the lid too!
- Next you will need to find a block of wood, or something similar to put in the bottom of the tote that doesn’t have any holes so that your tote that has the holes is raised up a few inches so that the holes around the upper edge are not covered. Place the tote with holes inside the other tote.
- Make the bedding. Shredded newspaper works the best. Try to leave out the shiny magazine pieces. I just tore 1/2 inch strips of newspaper lengthwise. This doesn’t need to be exact. Once the newspaper is shredded you will want to get it wet. I used a separate large bin for this and slowly added water until I got the consistency I wanted. You are looking for damp, but not sopping. So you should be able to squeeze a fistful of the newspaper and it sticks together in a ball but not a lot of water come out. Once you have the newspaper to the consistency you want it add it to your tote. you want to make sure you don’t have big clumps stuck together so you might need to fluff it apart with your fingers so there are lots of airy space for the worms to move around. This needs to fill the tote up about 2/3rds of the way full.
- Add a little bit of dirt to your tote. Not a lot, and make sure it is very sandy. Eggshells ground up or used coffee grounds work well too. This is just to give the worms something gritty to help them digest their food. At this point some people let their bins sit for a week or so before adding the worms to help it get a little “aged” before the worms move in. I am not the most patient of people (also I did not see this tip until I had a bag full of worms sitting on my counter) so I added them the same day. They didn’t seem to mind a bit!
- Add your worms! Oh, you don’t just have bags full of worms sitting around your house? Me neither, AND these aren’t your normal earthworms that are found in your garden soil. These little babies are called Red Wigglers. A couple of fun facts about red wigglers…they are in fact a reddish color. They are a type of earthworm but much smaller than the ones found in your soil, they live in compost or other rotting vegetation- not soil (hence the newspaper bedding). I bought mine on Amazon from Uncle Jim’s Worm farm. Yup! Good ‘ol Uncle Jim. They arrived in perfect condition and have thrived ever since. By the way you are going to want to buy the 1,000 or 2,000 worm pack. I went with 1,000 and that seems to be a good fit for the size tote we are using.
- Add your food scraps. You don’t need to add food for the first couple of days. Once you start adding food do it slowly. I dig down a little ways around the edges of the bin and add food in each hole. I then cover it back up. This helps keep any smells down and the worms prefer to be down a little ways where is darker and damper. After a few weeks you can start adding more food. You will know when this is when you go to a previous hole and it is full of worms and castings but no food. Ideally you should be able to add 1/2 pound of food per day to your bin and it will get composted quickly enough to never smell.
A few notes/ tips….
- I read about adding a small mesh screen to the bottom of your bin BEFORE you place the newspaper in. The worm castings will fall to the bottom and the food, worms, and paper will stay on top making it easier to harvest your castings. I didn’t do this but I am going to try it for my next bin.
- The first few days I had a few worms trying to escape. As long as it is not all of your worms it is just a few rogue worms not sure they like the new bin. If you shine a bright light on the bin for a few days they will bury themselves and stay down in the bedding from then on.
- After about 2 months I had to add more damp newspaper shredding because my previous ones had shrunk down. If there is not enough bedding the worms won’t reproduce, and I want more worms to make some more beds. In fact, I will be adding two more beds to the pathway of the greenhouse in a few weeks. Tune in to see my post on that!